PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.

To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

P.S. A Column On Things: October 7, 2002

October 7, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 40

Table of Contents:

General News

  • It's Like Lake Wobegone Around Here
  • Surfing Tale
  • Night and Day
  • Superman Followup

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Gettysburg PowerPoint, Purity Test


  • The Top 13 Rejected Ben and Jerry's Flavors Named for Musicians
  • The Top 15 Books Banned from Public Schools (Part II)


  • None


  • Reynolds on the Mideast

General News

It's Like Lake Wobegone Around Here

You know how Garrison Keillor starts out each week with, "It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegone? Well, it's been like that around here. Keeping busy substituting, taking the occasional phone call from my college girl, celebrating Rae's 18th birthday, accepting the last few birthday presents that trickled in for me. By class Monday night, I have to complete a technology portfolio, and I need to get to work on my 18-week lesson plan, or I won't be a teacher next April after all.

So, once again, I feature the excellent work of others this week... except down in the humor section. Maybe next week I'll tell you about Night and Day at the ACT and Winter's Tale at the California Shakespeare Festival.

Surfing Tale

My good friend Richard Dalton was moved to reverie by my comments about Will Rogers State Beach included in my recent Best Birthday Ever essay. His story struck me particularly because my late father-in-law, Fred W. Marlow, started surfing with a balsa-wood board in 1927.

Your beach-strolling reveries unravelled a long strand of 1950s memories, ranging from Malibu to WindandSea beach in La Jolla.

Linda and I revisited those years, staying at a non-descript beachfront motel in Hermosa Beach, ground zero for my high-school surfer-dude antics. Like most Southern California beaches, Hermosa is an immaculate quarter mile-wide strand groomed each morning by an army of mechanical scavengers. At the juncture of sand and parking lot is the same bike path you were on twenty miles away.

We rented a pair of wretched beach bikes (one speed, pounds of grit in the chains, crotch-pinching seats) and headed North. It was early as we peddled under predictable Summer fog past Playa Del Rey, where the beach was closed for years by raw sewage outflow, on up to Venice Beach, with streets clogged by druggies and all manner of hustlers, strange contrasts to the tranquil beaches.

We were getting weary, riding those cranky bikes, when we arrived at Will Rogers Beach in Pacific Palisades--Rogers was an early Palisades landowner. By that point, the fog had departed, the crowds had arrived and we were faced with the reality of a steamy 20-mile return ride, dodging stray volleyballs, clueless pedestrians, and mindless roller bladers. At least all the near-nude, near-perfect bodies were distracting.

We jounced back to Hermosa and collapsed, finally becoming the beachy types I had been reminiscing about. Amazed by how much had changed and how little, we later strolled on the Hermosa Pier, stopping for an early dinner at a passable Gringo-Mexican restaurant. Down the way, The Lighthouse, a jazz dive I frequented in later years, had morphed into a overly-lit pick-up bar. Shorty Rogers (no relation to Will), leader of the Lighthouse All-Stars, is probably rotating in his grave.

See? You can go home again, but be prepared. You will probably have changed more than your home.

I responded:

The one time I rode a lousy rental bike down as far as Venice, I ended up being diverted onto city streets, and struggled to find the rest of the trail. I did eventually find a bike route that went out to the beach and over a small bridge. Was that Hermosa Beach? Anyway, the bike trail petered out at that point. I doubt it will ever happen, but I'd love to ride with you sometime and find the "real" route.

I have less luck than you, apparently, in spotting near-naked, near-perfect bodies, but then I am usually on Will Rogers beach between 7 and 8 am, which is a little early/foggy for most bikini clad beach bunnies (although I do see the occasional volleyball player). There are moments, on the beach, when I think I could almost survive living in LA, if I had a house in the Palisades I could afford and never had to drive downtown.

I do go home, as you know, periodically, and except for the fact that they apparently shrunk my grade school (and lowered all the water fountains as well), much is as it was. Of course, much cool stuff is gone forever: the stocked trout pond next to the airport, the blueberry and strawberry fields out past 82nd, Adams High School, my dad's old dairy.

Anyway, glad I inspired you to write something as lyrical and enjoyable as this.

I asked Richard for more about his surfing days:

Yes, I was a kind of Jurrasic Period surfer: made my own surfboard, ate horsemeat steaks (tough; cheap) cooked over beach fires, and was very nearly arrested with my friends for a full frontal nudity "wave" at the Southern Pacific train as it passed along the beach at Oceanside. No Annette Funicello, though.

My friend John and I made our first two boards out of a WWII surplus life raft. Stripped the painted canvas wrapping off and found it was balsa all right, two to three foot chunks glued together with tar. We sawed the raft into slabs, glued them together and shaped the resulting mess into a somewhat surfboard-like design. We had to use opaque dye in the epoxy layer that bound it together. Wasn't stylish but it hid the Frankenstein internals.

Mine weighed about 45 pounds (dubbed the White Whale) and was flat--it lacked the banana curve manufactured boards had. I thought that just meant I'd lose style points. I damn near lost my life until I figured out that a board built like that couldn't turn much. While all the ho-daddies were cutting through tubes I sped straight for shore. Tried to make that a plus: stood tall; derided the kids who had to buy a board.

That worked until I hit 10-foot surf one day. When the wave broke, my hand-crafted beauty went straight ahead, then I watched the nose rotate until it was pointed straight down at wet sand. After I recovered, John and I said farewell to the White Whale and went down to Hobie's (yes, that Hobie) and bought a couple of foam blanks. These were unfinished boards that we epoxied and finished to look like part of the Beach Blanket Bingo set. Not artistically satisfying, but I was able to survive puberty.

I hope you enjoy Richard's good writing and sweet memories as much as I did.

Night and Day

Night and Day is this cool play about journalism written by Tom Stoppard who, regular readers will recall, is one of my very favorite playwrights. Although it is now more than two decades old, and includes such quaint anachronisms as British labor unions on strike and reporters filing from telex machines, it still makes points about the press that are worth making. First, the review and a personality profile from the San Francisco Chronicle, tied to a revival of the play at the American Conservatory Theater in SF.

Bright 'Night' for ACT opener
Gripping revival of Stoppard drama
Robert Hurwitt, Chronicle Theater Critic
Friday, September 27, 2002

NIGHT AND DAY: Drama. By Tom Stoppard. Directed by Carey Perloff.

Rene Augesen lights up the Geary Theater with a scintillating portrait of a vital, intelligent, impetuous woman caught between security and abandon. As Ruth, the bored, perilously incautious English wife of an African copper magnate, she is the heart pulsing life and passion through the American Conservatory Theater's revival of Tom Stoppard's "Night and Day." Steven Anthony Jones' visit in the second act provides its dramatic muscle. The opening show of ACT's 36th season, Carey Perloff's 25th anniversary revival of Stoppard's homage to freedom of the press isn't quite a knockout.

Stoppard's stint as a reporter was fodder for 'Night and Day'

Steven Winn, Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic
Saturday, September 28, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle

Clutching a plastic shopping bag full of English newspapers -- "Yesterday's," he lamented -- Tom Stoppard climbed into a car bound for the airport Thursday afternoon and began the long trip home to London. An American Conservatory Theater revival of his 1978 play about reporters, "Night and Day, " had opened the night before at the Geary Theater, and journalism was very much on the mind of the world's greatest living English playwright.

There are two scenes that I really like, which sum up the play for me. They're too long for the column, so I put them in this separate file, Highlights of Night and Day.

Superman Followup

Kevin Sullivan wrote about my note last week about Superman's religious faith:

Is Superman Jewish, reminds me of the Sci Fi essay, "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" which explores what the physical relationship would have entailed for Superman and Lois L.

Turns out Larry Niven's excellent and amusing essay from his 1971 book All the Myriad Ways is available on the Internet.


Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds cruises the net for you:

At last, some good news from the US Congress: the drumbeat of bad laws financed by the entertainment industry has been deafening: DMCA, CTEA, Hollings' proposed CBDTPA, and the draft Tauzin/Dingell DTV bill which would outlaw analog TV. The entertainment industry steals from the public domain, consumers and artists. Is there any good news? Yes!

This week two bills have been introduced this week by U.S. Reps. Rick Boucher of Virginia (longtime DMCA opponent and advocate for users of technology) and Zoe Lofgren of Silicon Valley. Both seek to temper the excesses of the DMCA and to protect consumers' use of digital media. They preemptively reaffirm consumer's Fair Use Rights in the face of DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology from the entertainment industry and the increasingly draconian laws proposed to enforce DRM with criminal penalties. On the Boucher bill: Copyright Power to People and Congress asked to unpick copy lock laws. On the Lofgren bill (which "...seeks to punish digital pirates without treating every consumer as a criminal...") from, Mercury News and Lofgren's office. See also Dan Gillmor's Studios' copyright goal is total control and this article has background and a time-line

Just over the event horizon is Eldred v. Ashcroft, A Case to Define the Digital Age, which Lawrence Lessig has recently joined:

...According to Lessig, Congress has extended copyright terms 11 times since 1962, each just as the copyright on the first Mickey Mouse film, Steamboat Willie, was set to expire. In fact, opponents of the law have taken to calling the CTEA, the "Mickey Mouse Preservation Act." Without the 20-year extension, Steamboat Willie would have passed into the public domain in 2003. What galls Lessig most about Disney is what he perceives to be its hypocrisy. After all, Disney built its empire by retelling other people's stories. The Little Mermaid was written by Hans Christian Andersen. Cinderella and Snow White are fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm...

Fritz's Hit List at Edward W. Felten's Freedom To Tinker site lampoons the absurdly broad reach of Fritz Hollings' CBDTPA. You will recall the CBDTPA's catchy theme song mentioned here on June 3

A plan to streamline the US patent process includes a proposal to contract out the search for "prior art", the patent office has such a dismal record finding obvious and well-known prior art in high tech, that this can only be an improvement.

Technobits: post-9/11 security measures create obstacles to academic research --- MIT OpenCourseWare is now online --- California sues spammer for $2 million --- "Techno-lust has gone elsewhere": PC mass market dwindling away? --- the NSF is funding research on P2P networks to provide more Resilient Internet Systems --- Google changes PageRank for the worse? --- it is an oft-cited analogy in the copyright wars, but see The Onion's satire RIAA Sues Radio Stations For Giving Away Free Music.

Web Site of the Week

Gettysburg PowerPoint, Purity Test

I praised the Gettysburg Address PowerPoint parody some time ago, but I still think it is as funny as all get out. Go read about it, then view the presentation itself. A tip of the PSACOT hat to Daniel Dern.

I was transcribing my freshman year journal when I ran across a reference to the purity test; a low score placed you on Virgcomm (the Virgin Committee), where I firmly rested until the start of my sophomore year (don't ask). Anyway, I wondered if it was still around, so I queried Marlow, a senior at Columbia. My taking of the test was delayed by the inability of the upperclassmen to find a copy. Today, of course, the purity test is administered and scored on line. It's a bit nastier in places than in my day, but the first 20 questions were identical. I scored 55%. If you scored higher, I don't think I want to know.


The Top 13 Rejected Ben and Jerry's Flavors Named for Musicians

A tie for 7th! Back in the saddle again...

September 30, 2002

13> George Clinton -- Detroit Super-Fudge Funk

12> Alanis Morissette -- Black Fly Chardonnay

11> Beastie Boysenberry

10> Britney Spears -- Plain Vanilla with Artificial Chunks

9> Public Enemy -- Fear of a Black-Cherry Planet

8> INXS -- Suicide Blend

7> Michael Jackson -- White Chocolate Nut

6> Little Steven -- Bada Bing Cherry 'n' Paulie Walnuts

5> Sean Combs -- P. Nutty

4> Vanilla Ice -- Vanilla Ice

3> Billy Ocean -- Carob-Bean Queen

2> Ozzy Osbourne -- Batstachio

and's Number 1 Rejected Ben and Jerry's Flavor Named for a Musician...

1> Bob Marley -- I Shot the Sherbet

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 136 submissions from 49 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Larry Hollister, Concord, CA -- 1, 3 (46th #1/Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 7
Chris Urich, Herkimer, NY -- 7

The Top 15 Books Banned from Public Schools (Part II)

Meanwhile, in another part of town, at No. 9...

October 3, 2002

15> 101 Other Uses for Scissors

14> Encyclopedia Brown and the One-Handed Computer Wizard

13> Mutha Goose's Gangsta Rhymes

12> Alice's Adventures in WonderBra

11> Bradley is the Pitcher, Kenneth is the Catcher

10> Good Night Uranus

9> Plagiarism for Dummies

8> Are You My Mack Daddy?

7> Mary Kay LeTourneau's After-School Fun Book

6> The Holy Bible (Rick James version)

5> The Hollowed-Out Ammo Storage Book for Troubled Goths

4> Harry Potter and the Spectre of Censorship

3> Heather Has Two Mommies -- The Scratch 'n' Sniff Edition

2> The Diary of Barney Frank

and's Number 1 Book Banned from Public Schools...

1> Where in Carmen Sandiego is Waldo?

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]

Selected from 131 submissions from 47 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Fred Hesby, Portland, OR -- 1 (7th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9



You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.


Reynolds on the Mideast

Craig Reynolds is right to be worried:

Geez, talk about a disaster waiting to happen. This is really scary:

Israel fears Temple Mount wall may collapse due to Ramadan crowds

I know this issue of the Waqf and "illegal construction" on the Temple Mount is a hot button issue for the Israeli right, so I'm not sure how much of this is real and how much is rhetoric.

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